FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Ten sights for the Easter Rising 1916-2016

Posted in Dublin, Ireland by folkestonejack on August 30, 2016

The exhibitions in this one hundredth anniversary year give more opportunities to explore the different strands that came together so explosively in Easter 1916. For what its worth, this is my take on some of the sights that I have visited (in no particular order) should that help anyone with their planning!

1. GPO: Witness History

The GPO: Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre offers a modestly sized display about the rising and the events that took place at the GPO from the moment of revolution to the restoration of communications. The 17 minute long immersive presentation that plays out in the semi-circular cinema screen was terrific and gave us a really good sense of the timeline of events. The framework it provided allowed us to better appreciate how the places we visited later fitted into the story.

On leaving the main exhibition space you can see a memorial to all those who fought at the GPO and I was pleased to see one of my distant Carpenter relations listed, though not the other (though both fought at the GPO Garrison and are recorded in Jimmy Wren’s superb The GPO Garrison Easter Week 1916 – A Biographical Dictionary.

One aspect of the GPO exhibition that I didn’t see replicated elsewhere was a look at how the anniversaries of the rising have been treated (and not just by the commemorative stamps issued at the time).

At the time of our visit the post office itself was home to one of the quirkier exhibits, a depiction of the GPO in 1916 made from 50,000 lego bricks! The impressive model was a real labour of love for its creator who spent some two years building this, sourcing obscure parts from around the world.

2. Richmond Barracks

Richmond Barracks has been one of the locations in the story of Easter 1916 that has been overlooked until relatively recently. It was here that the leaders were identified and court-martialed before being transferred to Kilmainham Gaol for execution. The barracks was also the location that 3,000 rebels were held and processed after the surrender, many of whom would then be deported to prison camps across England.

Richmond Barracks

Richmond Barracks

The witness statements that are delivered through an audio-visual presentation in the centre of the gymnasium are chilling. It is a powerful testimony that really conveys the sense of disappointment of the exhausted men at the outcome of the rising, sadness at what this meant for the Irish people and trepidation of what was to follow.

The exhibition also tells the stories of 77 women imprisoned at the barracks after the rising, the school that was established in this space and the community that took the place of the military barracks.

Inside the gymnasium at Richmond Barracks

Inside the gymnasium at Richmond Barracks

It is well worth taking the guided tour round the barracks for the extra insights that the very knowledgeable and passionate guides bring. The tours also include the bonus of a visit to the otherwise off-limits grounds of Goldenbridge Cemetery, the first catholic cemetery in Ireland which dates back to 1829. Although there are many notable graves, the most poignant is that of a child killed early in the rising.

3. In the Shadow of the Castle (Dublin Castle)
28th March – 21st September 2016

It was the state apartments at Dublin Castle, at this time in use as a military hospital, that the wounded James Connolly was taken after the rising. The British authorities hoped that he would recover sufficiently well to be executed in a fit state, but when it was apparent that this would not happen he was taken to Kilmainham Gaol by ambulance and executed whilst tied to a chair.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

In this anniversary year the castle has put on an exhibition that looks beyond this most obvious connection with the rising at the role of the castle as the seat of British power, the attack on the castle led by Seán Connolly and just how close the rebels came to taking it.

4. Signatories (National Library of Ireland)
Up to the end of December 2016

This small exhibition in the entrance hall of the National Library of Ireland presents the life stories of the signatories to the proclamation backed up by some fascinating documents and personal letters (make sure to pull out the display drawers as these contain some of the most interesting exhibits).

The displays also offered some fascinating glimpses into the way that NLI staff in 1916 were caught up in events, from a member of staff killed by looters to a librarian who joined the rebels and was subsequently deported to a camp in England. The letters home from the latter are striking in their sadness for the lost cause, the affection that James Connolly inspired in his men, anxiety for the future and subsequent boredom of prison life (writing about the excitement of counting the panes of glass in his cell over and over again).

5. Glasnevin Cemetery: 1916 Rising Centenerary Exhibition
25th March 2016 – 25th November 2016

The impressive expanse of Glasnevin Cemetery, originally known as Prospect Cemetery, was established in 1832 and 1.5 million are now interred between the two sections.

The cemetery includes the graves of many notable figures from Irish history, including of Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Roger Casement and Countess Markievicz. It also played its part in history in its own right as it was the speech of Patrick Pearse at the graveside of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in August 1915 that in many ways set the clock ticking towards rebellion.

One of the most striking memorials to the rising, the Sigerson Memorial, was beautifully restored in the build up to the anniversary. Sigerson’s depiction of Mother Ireland cradling a dying rebel is as poignant a reminder as any of the high cost of the rising.

The Sigerson Memorial at Glasnevin

The Sigerson Memorial at Glasnevin

Research conducted by the Glasnevin Trust shows that 485 men, women and children were killed during or as a direct result of the 1916 Rebellion. Some of their tragic stories are revealed through a special exhibition in the superb cemetery museum. It is also worth mentioning that the cemetery are also running Easter 1916 tours this year. We ddin’t take up this opportunity but the reviews have been glowing.

6. High Treason: Roger Casement (Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane)
10th March 2016 – 2nd October 2016

Roger Casement, a humanitarian who had been knighted for his work, was tried for high treason after negotiating a supply of arms from Germany for the Irish cause. The trial marked a low point for justice with deliberate moves by the British authorities to manipulate the media and his influential supporters through the release of his explicit ‘black diaries’.

Sir John Lavery’s historic painting, High Treason: The Appeal of Roger Casement, The Court of Criminal Appeal, 17 and 18 July 1916 is on loan from the UK Government Art Collection this year and is displayed alongside paintings of the key figures from the case. It depicts the last day of Roger Casement’s appeal against the charge of treason and the death penalty.

The painting was bequeathed by the artist to the National Portrait Gallery or the Royal Courts of Justice (where his trial had taken place) and after being rejected by the former, the painting was eventually received by the Royal Courts ‘with some consternation’. I like the idea that a permanent reminder of such a flawed case should have hung in the Royal Courts of Justice, though in practice it has been on loan to the Society of King’s Inns, Dublin, since 1951.

Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane

Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane

An adjacent room presents Our Kind, a short film by Alan Phelan which imagines what life might have held for Roger Casement had he not been executed in 1916. It’s a somewhat bleak piece, set in an imaginary exile in Norway some twenty five years on.

7. Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising (National Museum at Collins Barracks)
3rd March 2016 – 2017

The Proclaiming a Republic exhibition at the National Museum is the most richly illustrated and exhaustive in coverage, deserving of a couple of hours careful study. The story of the rising was well told, but I particularly appreciated the depth of coverage of the aftermath and its legacy. The pictures and accounts of the rebels who were deported and imprisoned was fascinating.

Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising at The Riding School, National Museum of Ireland

Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising at The Riding School, National Museum of Ireland

In an adjacent building you can also see the Asgard, a 51 foot yacht used to transport 900 Mauser rifles to the Irish Volunteers at Howth harbour in 1914.

8. Arbour Hill Cemetery

The memorial space that forms the last resting place for 14 of the executed leaders was created in 1955 through the amalgamation of the parade ground, old cemetery and school yard at Arbour Hill. It is located behind Collins Barracks, under the watch towers of Arbour Hill Prison, making it easy to combine this with a visit to the National Museum.

A view of Arbour Hill Cemetery

A view of Arbour Hill Cemetery

The main memorial is set back a little way from the entrance, making this a quiet spot to reflect on the sacrifice made by the rebels.

9. Rising (National Photographic Archive, Temple Bar)
2nd February 2016 – end of October 2016

The National Library’s second exhibition about the Easter Rising displays 60 photographs showing the impact of the Rising on Dublin’s city centre. Some photographs are very well known, such as the shot of a burnt out GPO, but others are quite unfamiliar. It’s shocking to see just how young many of the Irish Volunteers were.

10. Kilmainham Gaol

Last in my list, but not least. Thousands of ordinary men, women and children have passed through the gates of the county gaol but it has always been closely associated with the cause of Irish independence – before, during and after 1916. The roll call of revolutionary prisoners held here is quite extraordinary and that spot in the yard where the the leaders of the 1916 rising were executed never fails to horrify.

One of the panels on the SIPTU building

One of the panels on the SIPTU building

This list is far from exhaustive, such is the incredible quantity of exhibitions in this one hundredth anniversary year. I enjoyed smaller displays in Easons, at the Abbey Theatre and the vast commemorative panels attached to the sides of the SIPTU building to cite but a few of the others.

The more I have learnt about the rising the more I realise that there is still so much that I would like to explore in greater depth, although I didn’t have the time to do so on this trip. In particular, I would like to head out to the Pearse Museum at St Enda’s Park where you can see the school dormitory, study hall and chapel from Pearse’s Irish School. However, this will have to wait for the future!

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